Confessions of a 32-Year-Old Drama Queen
Photo: Shaughn & John for New York Magazine
Within seconds, Trisha Paytas has already managed to shock me. She’s in full L.A.-influencer drag: platinum-blonde extensions, baby-pink acrylics, cut-crease smoky eye, and a stiff, plump beige pout. Seated in the kitchen of her still mostly empty five-bedroom, eight-bathroom new home in Ventura County — where everything is white and tan and has that California casual-chic look that’s become standard issue for the YouTube famous — she looks so … normal. And then she opens her mouth.
Paytas is recounting her current obsession with Adam Sandler, and not in a “I’m rewatching 50 First Dates” way. More in the genre of “I just spent thousands of dollars on at least a dozen of his actual movie costumes.” “He’s Jewish and funny and schlubby and gets really attractive people in all his movies,” she explains. “So right now my phase is, ‘I want to be him.’ I’m sure in six months I’m going to be someone else.”
She is not kidding. This is, in fact, the essence of Trisha Paytas, who has spent the last decade and a half trying on different identities to see which ones will make her the most famous. Some have worked: In 2010 she attempted to beat the Guinness World Record for speed-talking, and despite failing to do so still scored appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and America’s Got Talent. Throughout her career she estimates she’s been on 30 reality-TV shows. She has written 11 “self-help” books and recorded ten albums (mostly dance pop, but she did recently come out with a mid-aughts emo-inspired EP under the name Sadboy2005), none of which made the charts. Yet nothing has been more successful in getting Paytas attention than what she does best: pissing people off. She is among the handful of YouTubers, most of whom either hate each other or at least pretend to, who have necessitated the formation of an entire drama-channel cottage industry devoted to explaining their constantly fluctuating relationships. Of her divisive peers — Shane Dawson, Jeffree Star, James Charles, Tana Mongeau, Nikita Dragun, the Paul Brothers — Paytas, the enigmatic big-boobed bimbo in the most self-aware sense of the word, is by far the most compelling, having perfected a mode of influencer-hood that inverts what the profession is.
Photo: Shaughn & John for New York Magazine
If a typical influencer presents a consistent, idealized version of what 2010s internet culture has taught us to desire, Paytas gives us the opposite: a chaotic and (mostly) unglamorous portrait of whatever or whomever she’s feeling that day. One of her favorite methods of addressing her fans is by talking directly to the camera while eating, say, the new Pizza Hut Triple Treat Box or chicken fries in her car. (It’s a whole YouTube art form known as a mukbang, and she’s a pro at it.) Recent stylistic phases have included emo bandleader, kawaii à la Care Bear, and Domino’s Pizza employee (though she has since moved on to Papa John’s). The result is camp in its purest form, crafted by someone who’s in on the joke but takes it perfectly seriously. “Whenever I dress up, I put a lot of time and money and effort into it,” she says. “Some people think I’m ironic, but I don’t know how to do that. I don’t think I get it fully.”
For the best sense of how famous Paytas is, simply go find the nearest teenager and ask them. But if we’re talking actual numbers: She has a follower count of 6 million on her two YouTube channels, 4.9 million on TikTok, three-quarters of a million on Twitter, and more than 300,000 on Instagram, but only because her original account was banned “for repeatedly breaking our rules,” according to a Facebook spokesperson — mostly for nudity and sexual content. The fun of being Paytas’s follower is in everything from discovering what she’s wearing that morning to who she’s mad at this week or, frequently, the latest problematic thing she’s said. And then, watchingdrama and commentary channels explain it all in videos titled everything WRONG with trisha paytas and Trisha Paytas being toxic and abusive for 10 minutes straight. In the past year, Paytas has publicly feuded with Charli D’Amelio, the world’s most famous 16-year-old TikToker, broken up her decade-long friendship with the only people in the YouTubersphere whose résumés of scandal are as long as her own (Dawson and Star), and outraged more than one marginalized community. It is impossible to separate Paytas’s endless pursuit of attention from the things she has done to get it: She has been filmed rapping the N-word multiple times. She’s been accused of making mockeries of gender identities and mental disorders. Her videos have, on many occasions, flagrantlycrossed the line between satire and cruelty.
Photo: Shaughn & John for New York Magazine
As with many professionally charismatic people who have done bad things, those serious lapses of judgment are easy to forget when talking to the woman directly. Paytas, 32, is infectiously bubbly and at times insecure to the point of making you feel a little bit sorry for her; whether that’s her goal is a question that never really leaves your mind. She is remarkably forthcoming; it can feel like she’s confiding her secrets in you even though everyone already knows them. She talks about how she’s grown from her “trolling” days within the notoriously toxic 2010s YouTube culture. She tells me about her plastic surgeries and liposuctions. She speaks soberly about the three times she was on an involuntary psychiatric hold. She tells me she wants to be remembered as a good person.
Paytas has become immune to cancellation in a way that only a handful of people can do successfully: Trump is one — and the rest are pretty much all on YouTube.
Paytas “blacked out” much of her life growing up, which was spent mostly outside Rockford, Illinois, with her mother, and occasionally, in Riverside, California with her father. “All I remember is I was kind of a loner, and that people weren’t necessarily mean to me but I didn’t have any friends,” she says. When her mother wasn’t workingone of many overlapping jobs –– as a teaching aide, bus driver, bartender, and postal worker –– she was more friend than parent. “I said I wanted to be a stripper at 12 and she was like, ‘Okay.’”
In her late teens, Paytas started living with and dating an older man who was formerly Alice Cooper’s personal assistant. When he began demanding rent money, she got a job at his friends’ strip club, Godfather, inthe Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, despite the fact that she didn’t know how to dance. She met a woman there who encouraged her to start escorting. At first, she had fun — she’d sleep with famous people (or at least people who knew famous people) and wealthy businessmen from out of town. She tells a story about a celebrity-adjacent client who used to get off by pretending he was Elvis and shooting rounds over her head (“I stopped seeing him because I thought, Oh, maybe he wants to kill me”). Then, well, drugs happened — coke, heroin, whatever was around. “They [didn’t] want a girl that was already strung out coming to their house,” she says. “So I would end up on Santa Monica Boulevard and hook there for literally five dollars or just a place to stay.”
Soon, a platform would arrive where the money was just as good and you didn’t even have to leave your house. Paytas posted her first YouTube video (a 43-second clip of herself rapping “Ice Ice Baby”) in 2007 under the channel “blndsundoll4mj,” named for the hair color she’d always wanted, “sun doll” after her love of tanning, and “4mj” because of an obsession with Michael Jackson. The first few dozen videos were largely devoted to her love of a different famous person, Quentin Tarantino, which included impressions of the director, reenactments of his films, and at least one video in which she simulates a graphic makeout session between herself and a pillow taped with a photo of his face — until, of course, she moved onto other fixations.
Photo: Shaughn & John for New York Magazine
She wouldn’t truly hit the YouTube jackpot until 2012, when she posted a video called “Why I’m Voting for Mitt Romney,” citing reasons such as “he’s super gorgeous and hot” and “my kitten is named Mitts.” In it, she also claimed she didn’t like Obama because “he’s gonna take away my right to be a Catholic” (he was not). It was her first taste of professional trollhood, and it worked: The video got 3 million views. Thanks to YouTube’s then-lucrative AdSense program, through which top creators were earning upward of six figures, it also netted her $8,000. It was more money than she’d made that whole year. “I thought, like, I’m not really talented or anything, so maybe I just need to try and offend as many people as possible to get money.”
So she started collecting controversies: There was the phase in 2011, and again in 2012, when she dressed up as “Trishii,” a character she invented that was supposed to be a Japanese pop star but mostly ended up just being racist; there was the one video in 2013 when she wondered aloud whether dogs have brains. There was the time in October 2019 where she uploaded a video titled “I AM TRANSGENDER (FEMALE TO MALE)” in which she claimed to identify as a gay man. Considering she’d previously claimed to identify as a chicken nugget, the video was met with outrage and mistrust. She stands by it, at least in theory. Her reasoning is she now identifies as nonbinary, but didn’t have the vocabulary to describe it at the time (her pronouns are both she/her and they/them). Of her use of the N-word on camera, Paytas gives the response that’s now standard issue for influencers: “Obviously it was gross and awful and that’s so embarrassing that I have that clip out there about that, because I’m like, so not that person.”
She managed to incense another community when, in March of 2020, she claimed to have dissociative identity disorder, thehighly stigmatized diagnosis formerly known as multiple personality disorder. YouTubers who’d built their channels by being open about their struggles with DID accused her of spreading misinformation and self-diagnosing rather than seeking help. Again, she insists, it wasn’t trolling. “I was like, This is so fucking crazy that people are doubting me.” So she made a video in which she pretended to switch personalities on camera.
Okay, that one was trolling.
All that aside, Paytas’s mental health is not a joke. She was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder at age 31, and previously received two paranoid schizophrenia diagnoses at age 12 and again at 18. Her mood shifts when we land on the topic of the three times she was involuntarily committed to a mental facility in 2019. At the time, Paytas was part of a group of YouTubers called the Vlog Squad, best known for performing stunts and pulling pranks of varying degrees of ethicality on each other in enormous Los Angeles mansions. It was led by David Dobrik, who, until recently, was one of the few YouTubers who enjoyed a relatively unsoiled reputation by industry standards. But over the past few weeks, multiple former members have accused him of fostering a toxic work/creative environment; one alleged that a supposed “prank” was sexual assault.
Paytas started dating Vlog Squad member Jason Nash in 2017 and their two-year relationship was a common one for the world of YouTube, where terms like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” have completely different meanings on camera and off — a video could be titled something like, “GIRLFRIEND PICKS MY OUTFIT,” yet both parties understand this is mostly a label of convenient storytelling than any sort of commitment. Whatever type of relationship they had ended when Trisha was no longer useful for the Vlog Squad, she says. “Jason was like, ‘I gotta break up with you because of David.’ That’s when I spiraled.”
In February of 2019, while she was getting ready for a party, Jason sent her a breakup text. She’d already been drinking, and upon receiving it, she took a Xanax and a Vicodin. She woke up in Cedars-Sinai. “Jason and David come while I’m lying on the stretcher, and I’m like, ‘Get the fuck out.’ I get off the gurney, I take off my gown, I start running out of the hospital and security people drag me and shoot Ativan in my thigh and strap me down.” (Dobrik and Nash did not respond to multiple requests for comment.) “I have more PTSD from David and Jason than I do hooking on Santa Monica Boulevard,” she says.
Paytas was admitted for a second time a few months later, during a period where she says she was addicted to painkillers. “May  was a brutal month for me,” she says. “A lot of hate videos were being made.” She doesn’t remember what happened, but according to the police filing, when they came by for a wellness check there were “pills and piss everywhere.” The third time, later that year, happened when she was on Instagram Live while high — she suspects it was a viewer who called the authorities.
Paytas does seem to be doing well now. She’s in therapy and says she’s mostly handling her BPD, though she’s recently started to worry about the voices she occasionally hears in her head. She’s engaged to a man from Israel named Moses (hence the current obsession with Judaism and Adam Sandler); they’re planning three separate weddings (one in L.A., one in Israel, and another in Maui) for the end of this year. She has a new house to decorate and a popular podcast she co-hosts with YouTuber Ethan Klein. It’s also the wealthiest she’s ever been. Along with most YouTubers, her ad revenue drastically declined from its peak in the mid-2010s — at one point she says she was making $200,000 per year off of YouTube ads alone — and she now estimates that about 70 percent of her income comes from her OnlyFans,the platform used most famously by sex workers, where creators can paywall their content, which costs $4.99 a month. Her subscriber count there fluctuates, but at around 22,000 to 32,000 per month, she’s in the top .01 percent of creators. (OnlyFans does not comment on the metrics of individual creators). Even minus the 20 percent commission OnlyFans charges, she’s still making $1 million a year. “Everyone assumed I’d always done porn, but I never thought I would,” says Paytas, who joined last year. “But I think at 32 I was kinda like, ‘Who really cares? My image is already tarnished.’” She tells me this is also the first time in her life where she’s actually proud of the content she puts online, now that she’s happier, more stable, and, crucially, no longer considers herself a troll.
Is it possible to take Trisha at her word — that she’s changed and she’s trying and that she’s sorry? For someone who has documented an abnormally large portion of her life for more than a decade, it would be unreasonable to demand perfect consistency of thought. But Paytas wouldn’t be herself if she weren’t altering who “herself” is nearly constantly. The cynical part of her knows her audience and the rest of Yollywood will indulge her whims and make excuses for her more despicable behaviors and outbursts on the grounds that she lets us ride along on the roller coaster of her mind. It is the privilege of people gifted with undeniable magnetism who are also willing to expose the ugliest parts of themselves — or to use a term more closely associated with Trump, to say the quiet parts out loud. It’s the same part of her that knows people on the internet don’t actually care if you say outrageous things as long as you’re keeping them entertained.
Besides, there’s just something about Paytas that feels beyond the current moment. You start to get the sense that this is a woman who, no matter what period of history you drop her into, would find a way to get famous — or at least make enough trouble to get people talking.
Thank you for subscribing and supporting our journalism. If you prefer to read in print, you can also find this article in the March 15, 2021, issue of New York Magazine.
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Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura
|Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura|
Opening title card
Alex Piper(season 1 & 2)
Daniel Kucan(season 2)
Sean Stone(season 3)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||22|
|Executive producers||Arthur Smith|
|Running time||~43 minutes|
|Production companies||A. Smith & Company Productions|
|Original release||December 2, 2009 (2009-12-02) –|
December 17, 2012 (2012-12-17)
Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura is an Americantelevision series hosted by Jesse Ventura and broadcast on truTV. It ran for three seasons from 2009 to 2012 and was canceled in 2013.
Former Navy Underwater Demolition Team (UDT), professional wrestler, actor and Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura examines various conspiracy theories on subjects such as global warming, the September 11 attacks, secret societies, government surveillance and secret weapons projects.
In the first season, Ventura teams up with a group of investigators consisting of skeptic Alex Piper, reporter June Sarpong and investigator Michael Braverman. In season two, Piper is replaced by investigator Daniel Kucan in a few episodes. In season three, Ventura's son, Tyrel Ventura, and Oliver Stone's son, Sean Stone, are part of the investigative team.
Ratings and reviews
The premiere episode was watched by 1.635 million viewers, TruTV's biggest audience for a new series launch. The next two episodes were watched by 1.586 million and 1.301 million viewers. Over the first three episodes the series averaged 1.5 million viewers, up 60% from the same time slot a year before. During January the show averaged 1.6 million viewers, helping truTV deliver its biggest month ever in prime time.
Critics who have reviewed the show include Linda Stasi of New York Post, who called it "mindless, good fun and a hoot to watch aging action stars still taking action", and Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote, "Whatever truth is out there, it's filtered here through what is arranged more as an adventure series than a documentary."
'Police State' criticism
An episode from season two titled "Police State" caused some controversy when it investigated allegations that various prison-like facilities built around the country that are operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be used during martial law for the internment of citizens who are deemed a threat to national security. Officials have said the facilities are emergency FEMA camps for the housing of civilians displaced by natural disasters.U.S. RepresentativeSteve Cohen from Tennessee, a co-sponsor of a bill which aimed to create temporary FEMA camps for the housing of people affected by hurricanes or earthquakes in his district, was interviewed for the show.
Shortly after the episode aired, Cohen called for the removal of this program from truTV's lineup. He called the episode an "outrageous distortion and an outright lie," as well as "dangerous and irresponsible." He said "when the media purposely distort the facts to create confusion and mislead people, they must be held accountable. Unless we actively debunk false and misleading reports, we risk leaving the public with a dangerously skewed vision of this country." Cohen said he was "shocked and appalled" that Time Warner would air a program "so full of inaccuracies and irresponsible distortions."
Another allegation brought up in the episode focused on a private facility outside Covington, Georgia, that was stockpiling thousands of plastic bins alleged to be used as coffins for mass burials.
In a response to the criticism, Misty Skedgell, a Turner spokesperson, described Conspiracy Theory as an "entertainment program that appears on an entertainment network."
Although most of the episodes of Conspiracy Theory have been rerun, the "Police State" episode has been shown only once, owing largely to the controversy surrounding the content of the episode.
After two seasons of the show, the creation of future episodes was in doubt when, on January 25, 2011, the Drudge Report announced that Ventura had filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), for what he calls "warrant-less and suspicion-less scans and body searches." Ventura, who has a titanium hip replacement, claimed that he sets off metal detectors and is always pulled out of line for lengthy pat-downs. The day of the announcement, Alex Jones, a consultant and frequent guest, said on his show that he had witnessed a pat-down of Ventura at the Atlanta International Airport while filming for Conspiracy Theory, during which Ventura loudly protested that "America is turning into East Germany." Jones said Ventura, who flew two to three times a week for Conspiracy Theory, refuses to fly commercially again, a vow he reiterated after his lawsuit against the TSA was dismissed in November 2011.
Although there were concerns that Ventura would not be able to continue hosting Conspiracy Theory as a result of his lawsuit and refusal to fly commercially, it was revealed in September 2011 that he would host a third season that would be completed and launched on TruTV sometime in 2012.
On June 26, 2012, Jones interviewed Ventura. When the two discussed the third season, Ventura confirmed that filming on the third season was completed in November 2011 and said the season was supposed to air in January or February 2012 but for unknown reasons had not yet aired as of that point. The delay led Ventura to suspect that the show was cancelled.
On July 31, 2012, Jesse's son, Tyrel Ventura, appeared on the Alex Jones radio show to discuss the upcoming third season. Tyrel dismissed allegations that the show was officially canceled, or that any of the new episodes were being censored. Tyrel said a change in management at the production company had caused delays. He also confirmed that the new episodes were still being finalized and edited for TruTV.
In May 2013, Ventura confirmed that the show has been discontinued and there will be no fourth season.
Unshown "TSA" episode
On October 30, 2012 Jesse Ventura made an appearance on the Alex Jones radio show and made it known that the final episode of the third season, an episode involving the Transportation Security Administration, would not be shown. He declined to mention what the reason was, only that "the decision was made at TruTV, if you want to know, ask them." Had the episode aired, it was to cover allegations that former Secretary of Homeland SecurityMichael Chertoff made huge profits off measures he enacted for airline safety, especially with full body scanners that were manufactured by firms he invested in. Additionally, Ventura was to investigate alleged "cancer clusters" centered around TSA workers who were exposed to the machines on a daily basis.
List of episodes
Season one (2009–10)
Season two (2010)
Season three (2012)
- ^"Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura : HAARP". Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- "Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura : Plum Island and the Bio-Terror Conspiracy". Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- "Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura". Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- Ragsdale, Jim. "Jesse Ventura says 2016 offers best shot for independent presidential candidate". Star Tribune. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
- ^"Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura Delivers 1.6 Million Viewers, truTV's Biggest Audience Ever for a New Series Launch". TVbytheNumbers.com. 3 December 2009. Archived from the original on 7 December 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
- ^"Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura Holds Steady At 1.635 Million Viewers". TVbytheNumbers.com. 15 December 2009. Archived from the original on 15 September 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
- ^"Sanctuary Ratings For December 11 & 18: There Is No Conspiracy!". TVbytheNumbers.com. 22 December 2009. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
- ^"New Original Series Help Lead truTV to Biggest Year Ever in Ratings". TVbytheNumbers.com. 21 December 2009. Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
- ^"truTV Scores Biggest Month Ever in January". TVbytheNumbers.com. 2 February 2010. Archived from the original on 25 December 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
- ^"Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura reviews at". Metacritic.com. 2 December 2009. Archived from the original on 22 March 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
- ^"FEMA Camps: Jesse Ventura's Conspiracy Theory Debunked". Deathandtaxesmag.com. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
- ^ ab"Rep. Steve Cohen goes to mat with Jesse Ventura over Conspiracy Theory". Commercialappeal.com. 7 December 2010. Retrieved 9 December 2010.
- ^Lawmaker: Jesse Ventura's show on U.S. concentration camps 'outrageous'[dead link]
- ^ ab"Jesse Ventura Suspects a Conspiracy About His Show About Conspiracies". theatlantic.com. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
- ^"Confirmed: Jesse Ventura Sues TSA for Pat-Downs". drudge.com. 25 January 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- ^Bakst, Brian (4 November 2011). "Ventura, miffed by court, says he's off to Mexico". Yahoo News. Associated Press. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- ^Fuller, Jaime (30 July 2014). "The amazing Jesse Ventura lawsuit, explained". The Washington Post. Katharine Weymouth. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- ^Ragsdale, Jim. "Jesse Ventura says 2016 offers best shot for independent presidential candidate". Star-Tribune. Retrieved 1 June 2013.
- ^"Jesse Ventura's show being SABOTAGED!". dailypaul.com. Archived from the original on December 3, 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
- ^"Second Season episode list". Trutv.com. Archived from the original on 5 December 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
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This 29-year-old YouTube millionaire has a good chance to be the next governor of California
Last year at this time, Kevin Paffrath was focused on his YouTube channel, where his half-million-plus followers could tune in for daily commentary on housing, stocks and stimulus checks. It earned him nearly $10 million over the last 12 months.
Now, the 29-year-old former real estate broker is following Gov. Gavin Newsom around his home state. It's the best way he can think of to draw attention to his unlikely effort to replace Newsom in the upcoming recall election on Sept. 14.
Paffrath is a registered Democrat and self-declared centrist who voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. While he's highly critical of Newsom and says he's been a "failed leader," Paffrath is equally concerned that the Democratic Party has no emergency plan.
Should more than half of California voters support the recall on their ballots, the next governor would be whichever of the 46 successor candidates gets the most votes, making it much easier for an outsider to win. Paffrath is one of the nine candidates listed as a Democrat, but party leaders are urging a "No" vote to the recall effort and saying voters should skip the second question asking who should be governor if the recall succeeds.
"It was mind-blowing to us that they didn't put at least somebody in, so that way, worst case, they had a hail mary," Paffrath said in an interview on Friday over a coffee, after attending a Newsom press event in San Francisco.
In an early August poll by Survey USA, Paffrath had the most votes in the field of replacements, with 27%. The next six candidates are all Republicans, including conservative talk show host Larry Elder and reality TV star and former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner.
"We think in the last two weeks of this campaign if the recall looks more and more likely, the Democratic party will be forced to pick a Hail Mary back-up candidate," Paffrath said. "Given that we're No. 1 in the polls, we hope that's us."
Democrats are right to be nervous.
A poll conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, and the Los Angeles Times in late July showed 51% of registered voters opposed the recall, with 36% in favor. But among likely voters, the gap favoring Newsom's retention narrowed to three percentage points.
The anti-recall movement has raised about $51 million, almost eight times as much as the side trying to oust Newsom. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has contributed $3 million in support of the governor.
Donors can contribute an unlimited amount for or against the recall, but only up to $32,400 in support of any specific replacement candidate. Paffrath said he's raised close to $400,000 and has put in about $200,000 of his own money. The average donation is $70, he said.
"We don't have the war chest that Newsom does, so we have to do everything in our power with grassroots and social media," Paffrath said.
For example, Paffrath paid his brother-in-law, an app developer, to build his "Meet Kevin" app. And he's trying to get in front of the media as much as possible. Most of his ad spending is via text message to let voters know there's a Democratic alternative.
On Friday, Paffrath hung out outside Manny's restaurant in San Francisco as Newsom spoke inside to the press. Dressed in a navy suit with a purple tie, Paffrath made himself easy to spot for reporters. He said he's careful not to be disruptive at the events.
"We have to combat, this 'Oh yeah he's a YouTuber, he's a prankster,'" Paffrath said. "We stand there very respectfully and reporters recognize us. They talk to us."
From San Francisco, he's following Newsom to Los Angeles and San Diego, and possibly beyond.
How it started
The recall effort picked up momentum during the pandemic as frustration mounted about the state's shutdown of schools and small businesses, and the slow pace of the reopening even as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations plummeted.
Newsom critics pounced at the opportunity to highlight the worsening homeless problem and increasing crime rates while taxes and living costs remained among the highest in the country. Paffrath said he wasn't an initial proponent of the recall and didn't get involved until it was well underway.
"The reason I think folks are frustrated is we pay our taxes, then we look up to see what our government is doing for us with the services we're paying for," he said. "And we see people dying on the street. We see blight. That's why people are leaving."
Paffrath, who lives with his wife and two young sons in Ventura, about 70 miles from Los Angeles, has made addressing the homeless issue his top agenda item. His proposal is to build new emergency facilities and lease commercial and office buildings, including many that have been vacated during the pandemic, to set up mass spaces with cots and small rooms, supported by staffing from the National Guard.
His aim is to get all of California's 160,000 homeless people off the streets in 60 days at an eventual cost of $10 per person per day, covering food, medical support and bathrooms.
Paffrath has equally ambitious — some may say outlandish — goals for new types of "future" schools, a system of underground tunnels to alleviate traffic problems and the building of Las Vegas-style casinos as part of a plan to fully legalize gambling.
He also recognizes the existential threat posed by fires and droughts. He advocates spending on controlled burns and a pipeline from the Mississippi River to double water flow to the Colorado River. When it comes to solar plants, he wants to incentivize companies to stay in California rather than going elsewhere.
"I'm tired of hearing about Tesla building solar panels in New York and Nevada," he said. "Those should be in California."
$10 million on YouTube
Paffrath's fans are used to hearing him opine on such matters. He now has almost 150,000 Twitter followers and 1.7 million on YouTube. Regular topics include interest rates, the crypto economy and politics.
Paffrath got his start in real estate a little over a decade ago by teaching people how to invest in the market. He became a broker and started buying property, then took his teaching experience and market knowledge to YouTube. By 2018 was making enough money — a couple thousand dollars a day — to let his broker license expire and to get out of sales.
At the coffee shop on Friday, he pulled out his phone and navigated to his YouTube earnings dashboard. Over the past year, the page showed, his ad revenue on the site topped $3.5 million. Affiliate revenue and money he makes from courses on building wealth brought in an additional $6 million or so, he said.
But his focus now is on politics. Paffrath said he'll run in 2022 even the recall is unsuccessful or if another replacement candidate wins. That's as far out as he's projecting.
"I don't want to be a career politician," he said. "I want to fix California."
He also wants to assure Democrats that he's not just using their party label because it gives him the best chance to win. With a legislature that's three-quarters Democratic, he said it's important to start on things that the majority cares deeply about, like the homeless problem.
Control of the U.S. Senate could also be at stake. Dianne Feinstein, the state's senior senator, is the oldest member of the chamber at 88. She's not up for reelection until 2024, and questions have been swirling around whether she'll retire before then.
If so, the governor would get to pick her temporary successor. The Senate is currently at a 50-50 split, with Vice President Kamala Harris in position to cast deciding votes when needed.
Paffrath made it clear he would pick a Democrat.
"I'm not going to burn the party," he said. "I don't want people to think that just because I'm a recall candidate I'm going to go in there and do what Republicans say they want to do, start cutting things and throwing around the furniture. It's not going to work. You've got to respect the legislature."
WATCH:California Gov. Newsom faces recall
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